Monthly Archives: October 2012

Drawing with Sounds Processing sketch

Since learning to code, I have explained to colleagues that if they have any ideas or needs for specific apps to come to talk myself or my colleague Keith Manville (@open_sen) and we would look at how we could design a application which would meet their needs. This happened to Keith a few weeks ago and I don’t want to say too much as he has already written about the process of designing the app on his excellent blog which you can find here.

What he has created is a simple visual and audio app that will draw bezier curves and ellipses depending on where the mouse is positioned on the screen. In addition it will play notes from the midi synthesiser using the soundcipher library created by Andrew R Brown. The outcome is a simple cause and effect app that not only stimulates the user visually but also through sound. The app can also be used on a touchscreen which increases the accessibility for some students. In the short time in testing this app out with students, I have found that different students react differently to it. Some are more interested in the visual shapes that are produced whilst others are motivated by the audio coming from the app when touching the screen.

Example of the image that is produced using the drawing with sounds app

In addition to this, I have adapted the code slightly so that switch users can access the app. Instead of the shapes being drawn depending where the mouse x and y axis are, the shapes are drawn randomly. Again I have found similar results with students being engaged and stimulated by the visuals and sounds being produced.

Part of our ongoing project is to produce applications for students with special educational needs, we have wanted to make the applications easy to share with others. We have set up a wiki: and if you click on the applications page you will start to find some of the applications that we have coded to download and try with your students, Both Keith and myself would greatly appreciated any feedback and comments regarding the applications as this will help improve them and further applications for the future.

N.B – If you are interested in seeing the work we are doing with the Kinect in the classroom please visit the PLC page at

Big Draw Day – Taking a line for a walk!!

One of the pictures shown to the students at the beginning of the day to give them an idea of Keith Haring’s work.

On Wednesday 24th November, our school took part in the national Big Draw Day. The day focuses on a particular artist and their work and it gives the opportunity for students to participate in a range of cross-curricular lessons based on the artists work. This year the focus was on the work of graffiti and visual artist Keith Haring. Based around Haring’s work, students were encouraged to take a line for a walk and this was the main focus for the day.

An example of the art that can be created using the Line Sketch application.

My colleague Keith Manville (@open_sen) had been working with on a application based around generative art and between us we looked at the possibility of running this as a workshop for the day. The aim would be for the student to create their own art using ICT and this would be achieved by taking a line for a walk. An example of how the sketch runs is shown in the video below:

The program runs automatically and the user controls the change of colour by either pressing the ‘space bar’ for a random colour choice, ‘m’ for monochrome and ‘b’ for black. In addition the user can pause the sketch at any time and the application allows for the user to export their image as a jpeg. This application was coded in Processing which you can read more about in an earlier post here.

We found that the simplicity of the program meant that a wide range of students could access the application and create some beautiful pieces of art.

Alongside this, we decided to run a kinect session based on some of the applications that we have found, which have been coded in Processing. The programs we used were created by Amnon Owed and they are based around using the kinect to detect the user and interact with the images on-screen. More information on how these are coded can be found in his useful tutorial here.

The first one we used was the Kinect Flow application which turns the user into a wavy line polygon and will track the movement across the screen. What I noticed for this application was the instant attraction for some of our ASC students using it. They wanted to explore what happened to the image when they moved their body. This was really interesting as these students would shy away from taking part in physical activity, but were really active during this session.

Example image of what the user experiences on-screen from the Kinect Flow application

The second application, again created by Amnon Owed, pours shapes over you. The user can use their body to collect them and bat them away. The tracking is very good with this app and I found that it even worked for wheelchair users. Also the app would pick up two users so was good for collaborative teamwork between students.

Example image of the user collecting shapes in the Kinect Physics application

After we had run the sessions, we had some time to reflect on the day and overall we felt the students had enjoyed the different applications that they had experienced. In terms of the line art sketch app, we found that students enjoyed making the art and were putting thought into when they should change the colours. However some students found that they could exit the app by pressing the ESC key and this is something that we will disable in future versions of the app (reminded me of students exiting apps on the iPad before guided access was added)

The kinect applications we used were not specifically designed with SEN students in mind though the natural user interface of the kinect allowed the students to instantly pick up what they had to do. It has given me some food for thought when it comes to coding my own applications for the students and developed my understanding of how to code for the kinect. If you are interested in learning more about using the kinect with SEN visit the excellent wiki being developed by group of schools using this tech with their students :

I found Big Draw Day, motivated me to continue to code and make applications for our students. The sessions continued to show, how these application encourage creativity, movement, engagement and exploration. To finish I was going to leave you with a video of a application that I am currently coding – no where near the finished product but gives you a flavor of some of the applications we hope to create.

Switch Progression Road Map

Over the last year, I have looked at developing my knowledge of using switches for ICT with groups of students who are around P3- P7 on the P-Scales. (more info on P-scales found here) I had some basic knowledge of how switches enabled students to access computers but in terms of assessment and planning for progression I needed to do more research.

Thankfully, I came across Inclusive Technologies Switch Progression Road Map, which was written by Ian Bean (@SENICT) whilst he was working there. This free booklet details the different stages of switch acquisition from cause and effect to students scanning the screen and pressing the button at the right time.  Also it gives you a suitable progression route for learners to develop their skills and suggestion of activities to use. I found the document invaluable in helping me plan activities for the students that were meaningful for them.

One of the most important lessons that I have learnt using this software and from various webinars I have attended is that the motivation for accessing the activity has to be there.  It is no use using the same activity for different students as they may not be motivated by the same things.  For example, in my class last year, I had a student at P1ii in terms of baseline assessment of switch skills.  He loved spending time with his family,  so I created an activity that would play a video of his mum or dad saying hello to him. At first, it took him a while to understand that pressing the switch played the video, but over time he began to link the two together and even after the activity, he would walk to the smartboard to indicate that he wanted more. This was huge progress and we have added in a choice of videos so that he can choose which one he wants by selecting a picture first before using the switch to activate it.  In the course of two terms he was now proactively seeking out opportunities to use the switch and had moved to P3ii on the road-map.

Much can be said that motivation for all learners  is key and this experience  really brought home to me the importance of motivation. especially when working with low-level students. I know from speaking to lots of schools that they already use this road-map, I just wanted to share my experiences in using this.

If you want to use the progression road-map the link is below and I would recommend it to all who use switches with their students in a SEN setting.

Have also attached the Baseline Assessment Sheet which comes with the road-map but have put it into a word document for easily editing.

ICT Baseline Assessment Template

I am very much looking forward to the Touch Screen Progression Road-map being released as I feel this would really help in terms of planning for and assessing use of tablets with SEN learners on the P scales.

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